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Pest-free, drought-tolerant shrubs
Q. We saw an eight-foot shrub growing in the sun in full bloom the other day. It had dark green leaves and pinkish flowers that resemble Indian hawthorn. Do you have any idea what it was? We need a tall evergreen hedge in full sun.
A. I believe the shrub you are describing is the “Majestic Beauty” Indian hawthorn. It is evergreen, large, and blooms every spring. Majestic Beauty is relatively pest-free and drought-tolerant. Other options to consider are yaupon holly, calamondin citrus, viburnum, and Texas mountain laurel.
Q. How do you control pinworms on tomatoes? Will Bt work?
A. Some gardeners say Bt will work because the worm must eat into the tomato to penetrate. I question its effectiveness and find malathion, Sevin, and even Spinosad more effective.
Q. I have a patch of Maximilian sunflowers for the birds but they are being stripped by caterpillars. Do you know what kind of caterpillar it is?
A. There are a number of butterflies that lay eggs on sunflowers; painted ladies is one species. Note the color of the caterpillar and go to an insect or butterfly guidebook. The sunflowers will releaf.
Q. What is the lawn grass that feels like steel wool? The blades are very thin but wiry. It makes a tight beautiful sod.
A. My guess in Emerald zoysia. It is a beautiful grass that grows very slowly and is difficult to mow. Mow it with a reel mower or very sharp rotary mower.
Q. What is the purple ornamental grass? Is it easy to grow?
A. Purple fountain grass is a purple ornamental grass. Grow the grass in full sun. It is heat- and drought-tolerant but cold sensitive. I used to dig up the clumps and put them in the greenhouse for the winter.
Q. We have a magnificent live oak that has roots where we want to put a sidewalk. Will the construction hurt the tree?
A. Live oaks are generally tolerant of the construction you describe but it depends on the condition of the tree, the extent of the work, and how much root is affected. Have you considered a sidewalk made of brick or flagstone without mortar? Even with live oaks, it is best to minimize the damage.
Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s director of water resources. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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